Sleep is bizarre, it really is. But you have to "get" it, as we've all been admonished since the beginning. Get sleep! Get some sleep! It is a big yes-yes. But my guru in the sleeping business said: "It's not how well you sleep, it's how well you wake up."
I wouldn't be so completely in agreement with him if his person, poise and bearing weren't so utterly, utterly relaxed.
There are times where you can lie there all night and not attain a single moment's peace in your so-called night of sleep. I presume we've all been there? Where the bed is a trammel, an entanglement of the body, soul and mind, and you're awake but you're asleep but awake but asleep. You ruminate on the losses of the day, and fret about the fitful future, wiggling all night like jelly in a pot.
The simple solution would be to get up and go about your nightly life, and ignore the possibility of sleep altogether. You know, gleefully watch Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde with a health magazine on the couch. But one always persists in lying there in bed in the hope of dropping off into a deep slumber of beautiful and intricate dreams. One is wrong.
These particular nights of whirling uncertainty are usually precipitated by too early a night in bed in preparation for the dreaded early morning task you've set yourself, or more realistically, someone has set for you. For instance, one pops into bed at 9pm in preparation for one's mate who's picking one up at 5am for a surf up north; one's thinking "I must sleep, or else!"
The "must" component, the sense of force is where the problem lies - excuse the pun - for you cannot force sleep anymore than you can force a bowel movement. You have to let the big S come to you like a cat, otherwise you'll be swiped and slashed by a feline frenzy of hypnagogic worries, fears and nightmares. Unfortunately, you choose the latter alternative, with disastrous results.
Then when your mate picks you up, he sees the battering you've sweated through in bed for eight endless hours. He assures you you'd have been better off at sea. He knows as well as you do, the trick was to go to bed at midnight or 1am and get four or five hours of blinding sleep, as he did.
This is where the aforesaid how-well-one-wakes-up aspect becomes the focal piece of any sleep. Your mate was smart; he knew fully well there was no use arduously fighting to suppress consciousness for the sake of a respectably quantifiable sleep.
He understood implicitly: why go through all that horizontal hell when you can have a perpendicular party of one, or enjoy a sedentary saintliness on the couch with your special one - even if your special one happens to be a New Zealand Rugby pillow.
In doing this, your mate has cheated the system of accepted conventional practices concerning sleep. He lay down impossibly late, got hit by a wall of gloriously dreamless four-to-five hours of high-quality sleep and woke up charged from not only his true defiance of behavioural science, but that physical buzz one gets from being under-slept. There's a free-hearted openness to being under-slept because your lethargy diminishes your normal worries of the West - it's great.
To those of you who can't sleep, don't worry. Vincent van Gogh never slept and he's the most famous man of all time. No real dreamer ever sleeps.